tv [untitled] March 16, 2012 1:30pm-2:00pm EDT
what that means for the future of shia islam in iran. so i think in the case of iran, the -- carve out an exception, generally speaking the push for religious freedom is helpful overall and arguing for a better future for iran. i am troubled by one part of this picture and that's the behigh. this regime has been vicious and bloody and murderous when it comes to the behi who had troubles in a lot of current rise including egypt. no whereas terribly as iran. i don't know whether the post islamic republican iran will understand this is all part of the same disease of intolerance
a and or what you'll find is the state should not try to impose what is the correct form of shia islam on us but the bahai are heretics, that can't be tolerated. one has to hope this experience teaches tolerance not only for your own group, obviously, but by definition that the real meaning of it is tolerance and i would hope we would go beyond that to religious freedom. at least tolerance for those not in your group. >> steve? >> i want to go back, i think the answer -- i would have given a different answer and i think elliott is actually right. my answer now would be having been informed by my colleague, yes but. in a sort of indirect way. and i go back actually to that first amendment. congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. for 200 years there is a tension between those. i think it helps iran in the following way. if the watch word is free exercise of religion and free exercise of all religions, that requires a tolerance of all religions and if you have a tolerance of all religions, then you cannot have a state founded on a religion because it's inconsistent with freedom of religion and the free exercise of religion by all groups. and that really is the issue in iran. you have a theocratic regime. the region will have to conclude that has not worked to the benefit of the people. you can't establish a government
on the basis of the slogan "islam is the answer." if your question is what is the answer to all political problems and the question of how to found a political system? islam is the answer, the region has to decide on that sense to that question no it isn't. and in that sense, iraq ahead of iran and because of the remarkable character of ayatollah sestani, after the early days in 2003 after all the political pes to him and said tell us what to do, he was self-limiting as to power. that is to say he said no, that is a political question, you need to work it out. i think that is the right answer, i think as part of the tolerance dimension, the second
piece of that is the region will have to understand that a political system based on religion is not the answer. >> dennis? >> i don't have a lot to add one of the points elliott made i think is exactly right in iran. what this regime has done is give religion a bad name and in many respects it's probably discrediting it for the future. and the -- one ironies, we've seen a decline in the power of the cleric, and power is being taken in a sense away from the clerics. it's also as elliott was saying, the quiet school school of shia islam, the dominant one, sestani represents, is a polar opposite of what has emerged within iran.
so, i think at some point we're in iran we will see a change. it's true the focus is on the nuclear issue for reasons that are understandable, but there is -- having been trained initially as a specialist on the soviet union, and you can always tell someone's age you were talking about us not being long in the tooth, you can tell that when someone is a specialist on a country that no longer exists. the reason i cited as an interesting example, i see within iran what looks to be an analogous situation to the soviet union in the early 1980s, where ideology in this case, religion as they describe it has lost the relevance as being an idea to justify a rule it's there as a cloak, underneath the cloak you have a kind of away and will eat away that the regime over time. you can never know and predict
how long it takes for something like that to emerge, but i do think it's impact in iran on religion is going to be increasingly negative over time and we won't quite know what -- when, maybe there will be an evolution from the regime, maybe that will happen first, but if there isn't, then there could be a reaction and could be a reaction against religion. >> now we're going to open it up to the floor for any questions. let me say up front the three stipulations for any question are that you first identify yourself, second you keep it brief, and third you keep it civil. all right, right here. microphone is coming to your right. thanks. >> i'm julian twiddler, i appreciated hearing the inside stories of talking to mubarak and i think it's heart ening to hear because there is often the
perception no one in the government is trying to push these issues and i think it's important. i'm wondering if you could share stories about other regimes in the region, have those conversations happened? i'm a specialist on yemen and jordan, i know in 2006 yemen had the first real alternative candidate in the presidential election. also, in jordan i'm wondering if the conversations there the king is very western, but the regime is not lelegitimate, sorry to s. the fact he doesn't have to perform pretend elections every four years and pretend that is his basis of legitimacy doesn't mean he's widely supported. i'm wondering if there are conversations there, saudi arabia, other countries, i would love to hear more stories from that. >> thanks.
let me start. one of the problems you run into, of course, is that while it's true there are some times rulers who respond to these questions, which they probably see as lectures by these stupid americans, they respond by saying you don't know anything, you don't understand my country. that happens. but what happens with equal frequency is people say absolutely. you are right, i'm doing it i'm with you, i'm ahead of you, when that is just pablem for us. there was a period in which it looked as if president saleh was moving ahead with the democracy, he had a reasonably free election, had an opponent in the election and he had a couple good years. but i think looking back one can say that he had not sort of read
that constitution that said this is it, i'm there. he did it, he did what we wanted him to do. we and others in the position to give him money, the eu, world bank, imf, so forth, and in the case of jordan, i'm not sure. that is the most effective lobbyist for jordan is the king, as his father was. there isn't anything you can tell the king that he hasn't thought of and said in his most recent speech about the liberalizationing in jordan. my own sense of it is, and i think probably close to what you were saying is that he has got a gigantic problem with the division between east bankers and palestinians and division of spoils in the government. he's got a system where quite
intelligently the prime minister does not come from the royal family, from politics, because that means that when people get annoyed after eight months, he's gone. prime minister is gone. you get a new prime minister. the problem if you do that every six or eight months, year after year, people will begin to doubt whether the changes and reforms are serious. the king has promised in the aftermath of the arab spring, real reforms. i don't think there have been real reforms. he's worried about something we're not worried about. this can be positive or negative and that is i don't think he's worried about what is going do happen by december, he's worried if his son will be king of jordan. he has to figure it out. what would you tell him if you were his brother or a close
advisor in the royal court, how do you maneuver through this over time? i would argue that the game he's been playing for ten years of -- i think it's fair to call fake reform will ultimately have to be jettisoned for real reform. given the political situation on the ground there that is easy advice to give from washington and hard to implement there. >> elliott's description and analysis is quite apt. in the case of saleh, there were extensive conversations over in the obama administration to move him out, to get him to accept the transition, it was in this particular case it was coordinated closely with the gcc states, because they were
central to providing him the means of staying in power. it would move in fits and starts, as was his want, he would make certain commitments, at a certain point even everything was done and then he would back away. this is a guy who obviously stayed in power for 30 years and was pretty good at maneuvering. and that meant not only internally among the tribes, but also externally with choosing to have certain allies at certain points and different allies at different points. in the end, he did go along with the transition. now obviously, there are some very positive signs with this transition. there still are some open question marks in terms of the weight of his own family within the military, but it is pretty
remarkable to look at what the reaction to these elections were, including among those who had been fighting each other, there was a genuine sense that something profound had now happened. so, look, the problems are enormous, they have few resources, they are running out of water, and they still have separatist impulses in the south, they have the hooties in the north, they face real challenges, but the transition underway now shows some promise, clearly it needs the kind of support and the fact is saleh in the end did leave. and it came after an enormous effort of a lot of player, including the administration, in a kind of repeated way. the number of conversations with him i can tell you were of high frequency and at high levels including the president.
and you're also striking a balance in these cases between what's the right balance between what you say in private and what you do in public. now, as one who worked in the middle east for a long time, what i can tell you with a high degree of confidence and i say this at a time when the truth is humility should be the order of the day since none of us predicted because we're not the authors of what is unfolding, we should have humility. so when i say the following, i'm saying this not only with humility, but also with some sense of experience. you can't limit what you do only to private. in this part of the world, especially with leaders, if it's only going to remain private they will never take it seriously. now how you balance what you say in public with what you say in private, that is part of the art. this isn't a science, it's an art. with each leader it will be different. and you'll have to figure out what's the right balance, what's the right moment, when you say
it you obviously have more than one audience because the others will hear it so you have to calibrate this. but if you're going to operate only in private you won't be effective and what worked i think ultimately in getting saleh out was at different times we ratcheted up what we were saying in public but even then coordinated that with the others who we femt had even greater leverage in terms of moving him. so having written a book on state craft, i can say an element of state craft here is also realizing what you say in public, if you have other actors who are key or at least are maybe pivotal in terms of helping to succeed in producing the outcome you seek, you also have to orchestrate what you're saying in public and not surprise them. it isn't just -- it isn't just the individual leader you're working on, it's also who else may be your partners in the effort to manage a transition.
and so that was very much the case in terms of finally getting saleh to agree to go. i don't really have much to add what elliott said about jordan. i do think that the king now is -- is more conscious of the need to carry out reforms that will be seen and not just from an image standpoint but in reality to be real. it is a very hard -- it is a very hard nut to crack because the backbone of his regime also is the recipient of about 80% of the revenues of the government. and if you really are going to open up the system and if you're really going to create the kind of reforms that will allow jordan to flourish over time you have to manage the fact that they get 80% of the revenue now, you can't have them go cold
turkey, without unleashing forces that in a sense you're not going to want to see happen, so again, this is -- this is one of these cases where you can do a lot in the laboratory that seems to make sense but in the real world where you have to carry it out, it's a very -- it's a very hard process to i think to orchestrate. i do think that the king has thought a lot in the last year about ways to create not only reforms, but also to demonstrate the reforms are real and looking at model, much more than the case before. and the moroccan model in some respects, because both of these particular monarchies trace lineage back to the prophet, they have a lot in common. and i think he does look to morocco with -- as one potential model. and the king of morocco is kind
of interesting example of someone who did look at what was happening and decided he had to get out in front of it. and what has emerged there, again never going to be anything that will be work perfectly, but it was emerged there has some potential and i think at least the king of jordan is still trying to think through, is that an appropriate model or hybrids that he will try to pursue. my sense is that he really is genuinely wrestling with it but the con tetext is a difficult context and there are no simple answers for it. >> steve? >> you may want to go to another question? >> we've got right here, dan philpot. >> i'm dan philpot from the university of notre dame thank you for an excellent panel. one of the things i appreciated about it how much each analyst
takes seriously the kind of sincere and genuine role of of religion in world affairs. but it wasn't always so. in his book the eagle and lion, james birecounts the story of analyst ernie olney saying religion is important in iran, we have trouble on the horizon all the colleagues ridiculed him, mullah ernie was the name he earned. my question is how much in u.s. foreign policy as we saw in the attitude toward mubarak, hanging on too long and so forth, how much is u.s. foreign policy shaped by kind of widely shared secularism in the u.s. foreign policy establishment? a secularism that says religion is rational or relevant.
how much that is true? we'll try to make our answers a little briefer. there is -- elliott eluded to this -- there is a question of what is secularism. i once had a question with condee rice. i said do you consider yourself a secularist? she said, no, i'm a religious person. so what do we mean by secularism? elliott pointed out the french have a view, the state has to sit on to religion to make sure religion does not intrude into public life. there's a kind of sec u larkism i don't buy. i don't think our country buys. i think the best one is what was talked about in cairo, an equal distance from all religions, but a tolerance of all religions. i think -- i think probably the
political establishment is somewhere between what i would call the american model and the french model. i think the american people are between the american model and something with perhaps even more active place for religion. but i think the government has been consideration of that. i will just explain my own experience. i was from '89 to '93 i was in the pentagon. i co-chaired with the deputy, the number two person that turkish military, high level panel. and i used to talk to him one-on-one about how the turkish establishment needed to provide a space for religious expression by the population. and i think that is something americans broadly agree on and the diplomatic community agrees on and at various times i that i is the model that we have urged on countries. you've got to provide a space for your citizens.
president bush used to say to the chinese, your people in the end of the day will never feel fully satisfied and you will not get the best out of your people if you do not allow some space for the exercise of religion and the exercise of the spirit. i think that's roughly where the united states government has been. >> i will add one quick thing. i agree with what steve said. i don't think that there is this impulse that the people on the inside who have this kind of generalized view. i think it's country by country. and you're looking at the circumstances. i think that's actually -- that's the way i think most analysts within the government -- look, i don't think they come with any priority view, per se. i have one other point and it's not -- i think it's jermaine but not directly what you're asking. you know, having been someone who negotiated for a long time
on arab-israeli issues, oftentimes i actually wanted to have religious spiritual leaders support the premise of tolerance and co-xest iexistence. i recently met with an interfaith group from the area and included israelis and palestinians and for the first time they said they would like to see if they could play a role. and i said, you know, it's interesting that historically that's not been the case. and, indeed, i recall in the year 2000 the pope went, you know, went to -- made a tour throughout the middle east. went to jerusalem and ramallah. and they came -- his representative came in advance to us and wanted to -- wanted to create a meeting where they
could reinforce the importance of tolerance and he put together a meeting of jerusalem and it was a complete disaster. and so it was actually refreshing to see nt want to promote something. so in answer to yry own experiei didn't view it as being something that was at odds with peace making although i didn't want this conflict to turn into a religious conflict. but i wanted religious spiritual leaders to see if they could reinforce the values of tolerance, nonviolence and co-existence. >> the gentleman standing at the back. microphone over there, please. >> i'm from the naval post graduate school. what is obama's -- obama administration's view or assessment of libya moving forward? is democracy going to take hold in libya?
if not, what are the challenge that's prevent that? and secondly, some have made the claim that the current administration is cooking the intelligence on syria to prevent an intervention in syria. what is your assessment on that? >> dennis, i think that's to you. >> i'm assuming it's to me. first, i'm not in the obama administration. so i don't speak for the administration. they have plenty of spokes people. i'm not one of them. i would say, though, i mean i was in the administration for most of what went on on libya including the intervention and its aftermath. i think that there is a continuing hope that what can emerge in libya will be a government that is largely representative. it will be a government that is not a government of tribes or sectarianism but a government
that will be largely represented and inexclusive. representing there are, you know, this is not a simple process to generate. the prime minister of libya was recently here and saw the president. when you speak to the people in what is an interadministration in libya right now, they are very much committed to trying to produce what will be a representative democracy. now, you know, coming after gadhafi and the absence of any institutions, it's both in some ways easier and harder because, you know, in other places, there are what i would describe as sort of air satssad's instituti they're not real. and then you're trying to take them and reform them. in libya, you're trying to build them out of largely nothing. there is potential because of that. and there are also all sorts of
splits within the country. there's no doubt that their trying to gain the upper hand. but whether you talk to the people trying to manage the change themselves, many of whom by the way were educated here, they're incredibly impressive. they certainly are saying the right things. whether they can deliver on it remains to be seen. but the administration is looking for ways to continue to bolster and continue to move things in a certain direction. i would just say on the issue of syria, i don't believe that what just came out if there was some intelligence briefings, i don't believe those were by design by the administration. i think they may reflect certain views within the intelligence community. it's not my understanding that they represent the views of the administration. >> in october 1789, george washington wrote a letter to governor morris in paris on the
french revolution. the revolution, he warned, he said is wonderful but he also warned it is of too great a magnitude to be affected in so short a space and with the loss of so little blood. they're running from one extreme to another is no easy matter. and should this be the case, rocks and shells, not visible or present may wreck vessels? i was just looking at an article about people in tunisia having the demonstration calling for sharia law. i think going back to washington going from one extreme to the other. you have the french revolution right. >> we don't know yet. after all, the changes in
governments began roughly a year ago. they're very significant changes and replacing the regime that's were there for 20, 30, 40 years. i think, you know, we also don't -- we know from the experience of, for example, indonesia and malaysia and some others, islamists tend to do best in the first election. dennis mentioned some of the reasons why before because they had the election organized. they stand for integrity. they weren't part of the old corrupt system. but then what happens is they get elected and they can't produce in many cases. islam is not the answer. it doesn't tell you how to create economic growth, jobs. and so in the second election, of course you have to have second and third election, if there isn't one, then the tide tends to de